Marc Denis has been a key part of the Bulldogs' early success, posting a 1.84 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage.
MONTREAL – Career paths are like city streets. You know where you want to go and how you want to get there. Sometimes, though, there’s an unforeseen detour that leaves you wondering how to get back on track. Just ask Marc Denis.
After a rough couple of seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Denis was bought out in June. Just a few days later, he inked a one-year, two-way pact with the Canadiens. Looking back, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I was looking for a fresh start, as cliché as that sounds,” explained Denis. “When the Montreal offer came around I realized it was the best thing. It’s a solid organization with a solid goaltending coach, it’s the 100th anniversary, and I get to be a little closer to my family; it just made sense.”
One month into the season, that certainly appears to be the case. Denis has appeared in nine of the Bulldogs’ 11 games so far, posting a 7-1-0 record together with a 1.84 goals-against average and sparkling .945 save percentage, to rank fifth and second, respectively, in the AHL. The veteran ‘keeper also leads all league netminders with seven wins and two shutouts.
His success hasn’t gone unnoticed. Earlier this week, the 31-year-old was named the AHL’s Player of the Week, for the week ending Nov. 2.
“This league is obviously more about the young guys. You don’t often see veteran guys like me getting a tip of the hat like that so it’s nice to get the recognition,” he admitted. “At the same time, though, I try not to get too high or too low. I just want to keep my focus and stay on track with Rollie’s plan.”
“Rollie” is Canadiens goaltending coach Roland Melanson, who has been an important part of Denis’ success so far. Shortly after signing with Montreal, the netminder and netminding guru got in touch and have been in constant contact ever since.
“He’s been tremendous,” said Denis. “He was here for a full week recently to work with me and even when he’s not here, he’s still helping me with my technique, whether it’s with a quick phone call or text message.”
Blessed with riches in between the pipes over the past few years, head coach Don Lever came into this season hoping for the best. He’s certainly gotten that and more from Denis, whose experience has played a key role in the team’s success.
“He’s been so solid for us in goal that it gives the rest of the team more confidence,” said Lever. “He makes the big saves when we’ve needed them.
“His professionalism and calmness are great assets and that helps us, as a young team,” he added. “Marc’s got a great rapport with Cedrick [Desjardins] and he’s provided a lot of leadership.”
That’s helped propel the Bulldogs to their best start since the 1997-98 campaign, one that appears to be mimicking the Canadiens’ equally hot start.
“Success is contagious,” noted Denis. “Seeing what’s going on up in Montreal and with us here, the winning attitude trickles down. We’re a young team and we’re going to hit some bumps along the way but I’m not worried. We’ll be ready.”